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4th Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles

John Patterson

John Patterson

Just 4 years old, the IFFLA has rapidly emerged as one of the city’s best annual movie showcases. This is to a great extent because it draws so intelligently on the full breadth and depth of one of the richest movie industries on Earth, from the world-class gloss of commercial Bollywood to the scrappiest Beta SP documentaries. Notable among the latter is Ben Addelman and Samir Mallal’s Bombay Calling, an eye-opening look at the strangeness of an emerging and already conflicted middle-class enclave that owes its existence to answering customer-service calls from the U.S. with fake American accents. Among the former is Pradeep Sarkar’s Parineeta (The Married Woman), an absorbing “neoclassical” melodrama from writer-producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra (Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.), based on a 1919 novel by Devdas author Saratchandra Chatterjee. Famously filmed by Bimal Roy in 1953 and here effectively updated to the 1960s, the film restores its glorious songs to the integral narrative role they would have played in the past, before every Bollywood musical number became an aerobics routine. Somewhere in between the maverick independents and the commercial entertainers stands the majestic actor Naseeruddin Shah, who will appear on Friday as part of a retrospective tribute to his 25-year, 120-film career. Best known here as the father of the bride who stands up for both his daughters in Mira Nair’s Monsoon Wedding (2001), Shah has kept the pot boiling with character-actor gigs in Bollywood while helping to revolutionize Indian film acting. With Om Puri and Smita Patil, in the 1970s he imported Method-acting conventions from the West in films like Shyam Benegal’s Manthan (The Churning). The naturalistic conviction of today’s neoclassical standard-bearers such as Aamir Khan would be unimaginable without him. (ArcLight; thru April 23. www.indianfilmfestival.org)

—David Chute